Faking the News By Storm

When a far right website called The Daily Stormer (named after Der Stürmer, said to be Adolf Hitler’s favourite magazine) gained publicity by offending readers, and before they were forced into obscurity after GoDaddy and Google, and even Russian web providers refused to register their domain, I gained access to their style guide (since it, along with a link, came up briefly in the mainstream news). I had no intention of writing for these people, but what I found in that document was a frank account of their thinking behind their practice of knowingly publishing racist and misogynist material.

To think this is OK, for one thing, the writer should be OK with the fact that they are writing for a group of unapologetic neo-Nazi white supremacists. The upshot is that they are quite honest about the fact that you (the first-time reader) won’t necessarily give them a positive reaction. What they are after is that while they made you angry, your subconscious accepts that information uncritically, according to The Daily Stormer understanding of human psychology. So, with enough unrelenting repetition of the same tropes, your mind will some day accept it. The Nazis understood the art of propaganda quite well, and it worked out quite successfully for their regime back in the 1930s. This doesn’t seem all that different, nor is their effect any less calculated. As writer Luke O’Brien from The Atlantic wrote in the December 2017 issue, the site contained “non-ironic Nazism masquerading as ironic Nazism”, referring to their tendency to appear to be joking about committing hate crimes on individuals, except that they were not joking. The appearance of joking, according to The Daily Stormer style manual, was intended to hook the new reader into reading more from their website.

The content manager of the site was a young man named Andrew Anglin (who by now would be 36 years old). Not much was known about him after 2017. Described in most reliable accounts as growing up as a troubled and confused teenager, he developed his world view by travelling to the Philippines and various countries in Europe. He was always very much a part of the right-wing online world, honing his opinions on 4Chan, and setting up a series of blogs over the years on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from conspiracy theories to survivalism, where he fancied himself as akin to Commander Kurtz in the movie Apocalypse Now: living alone in the Philippine rainforest and far from villages, but having nearly infinite power over the villagers. It was an obsessive romanticism which forced him to say that life in a South Asian jungle wasn’t for him, blaming his difficulties on the villagers.

It appeared for a while, after Anglin was denied his registry of The Daily Stormer that he disappeared into obscurity. And it was pretty effective obscurity too: many people including police and the media, were unable to locate him, though it was widely belived that he was somewhere in the American midwest at the time.

During the time he was active, it was likely that his screeds were being copied and spread by Russian hackers to Facebook and Twitter and other social media. It did not seem likely that he received any attribution for his articles, since there didn’t seem to be a big increase in traffic to his site caused by this. The Russian Government must have known that an American living in Russia had registered a website dealing in spreading pro-Nazi hate while lionizing Tump and Putin. However, it is not clear that he benefitted financially or drew hits to his site in any discernable number, and after he had his application to register his site rejected by the Russian government (and nearly everyone else), he did not seem to wind up any richer for his efforts. He was just used as a cog in the Russian disinformation apparatus, then the minute American media shone a light on him, he was thrown away  like a broken toy.

A look at the Internet as of this writing shows that The Daily Stormer is back up, with nearly all the articles bylined by Anglin, with the site registered with the Russian registrar r01.su, under an SU top level domain (TLD)  (meaning the country code appearing at the end of his server URL is actually the Soviet Union, instead of Russia, which would have been RU). It is likely he is still living in the United States, since there doesn’t appear to be a requirement that he needs to have business dealings or residency in Russia to have a Russian TLD.

What?! Free joints but no munchies!? F**k the government!

An article in the New York Times discussed about the move in Washington State to offer free Covid vaccine injections from various marijuana dispensaries in a so-called “Joints for jabs” program. Along with that, they would offer free joints, but stopped short of offering “edibles”. The Times article is not clear on this last part — they probably mean edible cannabis-infused products. They could have also meant Doritos or pizza, the standard go-to foods when a stoner gets the munchies. Not to be confused with cannabis-infused pizza, which would make things worse.

 

Reflections from the 14th floor

My 14th floor apartment was a place I moved into when I was much lower paid, but had an advantage of utilities and electricity being included in the rent. Currently at roughly $1450 per month with rent controls, this is now considered to be a very low rent in the GTA, counting Oakville, Milton and any surrounding areas, considering the square footage. The more rents and property values go up everywhere else, the more I sit here and count my blessings.

I earn what many consider to be a comfortable salary. But even someone grossing just over 100K per year is only enough to afford a down payment for a house in Greater Toronto, if you lived back in 1995. About 10 years ago, it was barely adequate for a home in Georgetown or Milton. Not anymore. Either a new townhome or an older detached bungalow sells for upwards of $750K there, meaning you need a downpayment of $500K for the privelege of paying over $2000 per month for 25 years (I will be in my 80s by then). And the townhome, even though you share walls with two neighbours, is probably marketed as a condo, which means you are paying another $500 per month in condo fees, on top of your mortgage. There are also property taxes for both properties. The bungalow could require renovations, for which you alone provide the expense, including the expenses for things like mowing the lawn, tending a garden, trimming hedges, and otherwise making your own repairs of all descriptions. As for Mississauga, one of my local online news sources, insauga.com, announced yesterday that the average price of a home has now risen to just over a million. I hear that prices are being driven up in markets across Canada which have low demand. The real estate cartel is coming to a town near you.

I live in a world, where this morning, sitting on my balcony to eat breakfast, I block out the birds and traffic and some kind of low rumbling noise emenating to my balcony, with noise cancelling headphones of a recording of nature and birds. Artificial birds replacing the real ones, as the price for cancelling out all of that rumbling and traffic.

I recall a video on YouTube regarding abandoned mansions in the city of Toronto. Apparently, an outfit calling themselves Bright Sun Films, annouced with wide-eyed mysticism that property values in Toronto are going up, and mansions owned by real estate sellers are sitting abandoned. I recall the announcers, who didn’t sound a day over 25, described it as odd and bizarre, but did not make an attempt to connect the two dots. Sitting on abandoned property, and rising housing prices. Hmmm…. It is true, you need to be pretty stinking rich to be able to control so much of the market that you can let some property lay fallow, while creating an artifical shortage of properties everywhere else in order to drive up the price. Unless there is agreement among several stinking rich property owners to do that.

Personally, I am at the stage where I need to decide whether to own property some place, or just sit here and rent. The U-Haul rental in Oakville which I have for my extra stuff costs $300 per month, which adds to my rent, so that my rent is effectively $1750 per month. This is on par with the current average rent (not including utilities) of a 1-bedroom apartment in Mississauga. I would still need a place for my extra stuff. Ideally, if money were no object, I would need a second room for an office to eliminate the clutter I have here, and a third room for extra storage, in order to eliminate the need for the U-Haul room rental. That places me in the $2600 per month level, which will not likely include utilities and electricity. The total cost of the rental of an ideal place, counting utilities, would be around $2800 per month, $1100 over my “effective” rent I am paying now. And I have never mentioned other expenses such as telcom (phone, internet, cable). This will be true in Mississauga, as well as surrounding areas. It means that I will try to work with what I have. Currently, that $1100 per month is going into my savings account and investments, so I see moving out as incurring a negative opportunity cost.

I ask myself if it is ok for me to invest. I know nothing about investments, and when I watch Bloomberg on cable TV or listen to business news, I just end up mystified by the terminology. I mentioned I sink a lot of money in “investments”, but they are chiefly low-risk GICs. I just go with the safest thing possible. The stock market requires you to do your research, and be quick on your feet when the winds change. I am too much into teaching right now to devote that kind of time and effort. I am just marginally smart enough with money to realize that much thought (wise thought) in investing is to ask yourself “how much money am I willing to lose?”

I think about investing in stock as more like gambling in a casino. There are so many moving parts to the economy that stocks can rise or fall for any reason. Even knowing “everything” about the company you are buying stock from may not be enough. There is also the product they supply, which is driven by the market and marketing. There is also the broader economy. There is climate change, epidemics, and the possibility of the real estate bubble bursting in the near term. There are really too many things to watch. I would only trust the quarterly reports after it I see how it jibes with actual outside factors. That takes time and effort.

Teenage fashion, as promoted by the New York Times

High school fashion: A still from the trailer for the rebooted series “Gossip Girl.”

Today, I read an article in the New York Times, where a teenager has a crisis over what to include in her wardrobe. Obviously a person of some privelege, many words and electrons were filled over what to do about this young girl’s fashion crisis.

The above picture was the picture shown with this article entitled “I Want to Invest In My Wardrobe! Help!” by Vanessa Friedman in the Times from May 28, a publicity photo from Gossip Girl, which sets the tone for the kind of “fashion crisis” under discussion. I have never seen the series, but from the photo, the girls – they are supposed to be high school age – seem to dress as if the parents never existed. It doesn’t appear that they do. The girls show lots of bare skin and high heels, as if they were at a singles’ bar and hard-up. The guys dress to impress as well, but both sexes seem to convey the impression that appearance counts for more than character in their families. The caption below the photo read “High School Fashion”. Nope. Not in any high school I ever worked at.

Adolescents are constantly focused on their appearance by nature, and good parents find it a constant battle to get them to develop social skills such as empathy and integrity, since they run counter to the egotism, pettiness and cruelty that adolescents can be capable of if unchecked. Did Ms. Friedman tell the young girl that in addition to clothes making an impression, that you also have to work on your character as well? No. She talked about clothes. Clothes, over the human life cycle. Clothes, as if the young daughter’s budget were limiteless. Clothes, without any regard for the 90 per cent of readers who will find none of the advice actionable at any age, but were seduced into reading it by a photographic depiction of high-class jailbait. Clothes, to remind the rest of us ordinary folk that the barrier to entry of “making an impression” is not for the hoi polloi.

Life After Wokeness I

Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality, while making it easier for them to part with them.” — Vaclav Havel (1978) The Power of the Powerless. Saimizdat.

If I was Vaclav Havel’s Green Grocer, what sign would I hang on my shop, as the utopia of wokeness comes to power? Maybe some woke-sounding thing like “Love comes in all colours”, with perhaps the pride colours as part of the sign.

Similarly to Marx’s call to arms of yesteryear, a shopper may gloss over the slogan to see what I have on sale; or if they bother to notice, think that the message is heartwarming, something that all folks can agree with. On its own merit, “Love comes in all colours” doesn’t offend, and brings out the warm fuzzies. But cheifly, Green Grocer remains a person to do business with if the items on offer are appealing, and the price is right. The slogan is really not so much of a warm, fuzzy statement of the Green Grocer’s view of matters of gender and sexual orientation so much as a passive acceptance of those elites that are in power.

While the language of wokeness, a genuine language since its words suck the life and meaning out of every word it utters, purports to “celebrate” oppressed groups of all descriptions, its main proponents come from the most elite of prep schools, and educated at Ivy League universities. They work in high positions of the largest organizations and businesses. You might have noticed that the message of wokeness come from the top down.

The use of “Celebrate” is used in a way that deprives it of all life and meaning. Rather than a spontaneous show of our elation, “celebrate” is more of a command. Claims that I “celebrate” our diversity is a token of my social acceptance, and does not mean that I plan a party and send out invites.

It is worth “celebrating” when oppressed people make demands. But in this case, the demands are instead coming from the top down. Large organizations are the ones telling us to “acknowledge” the contributions of minories; to “celebrate” diversity. If taken on their face value, the words are not so much the problem. What poses a difficulty is who is calling the shots. Speaking truth to power is quite different from those in power telling us what to think and do, no matter how much they dress themselves in humanistic-sounding jargon.

Like most directives from on high, this “celebration” of our differences and cultures does not take on the open forum of a discussion. It is more like a lecture by those of purportedly superior knowledge to the rest of us purported know-nothings. The jargon used has the calculated effect of requiring a high barrier of intellectual entry for most people, thereby discouraging opposition. In that regard, it is no different from the attempt conservatives take to exact loyalty and conformity to their own groups’ way of thinking. It is telling that “antifa” has become the new “communism” in terms of politically taboo groups of people. Anti-fascism is the only true antidote to both of these tendencies, since both are fascist in nature; and it is the one tendency that strikes terror in both of these elite groups.

Another movie: Silk Road

Silk Road is a fairly new movie released back in February to overall lukewarm reviews.

It tries to tell the story of a fellow named Ross Ulbricht, who was the mastermind behind the darknet site Silk Road. Silk Road was a website that dealt with selling drugs, and was a story that had potential. But in the end the film was pretty boring.

The principal medium in this movie is the computer, in the sense that the subject of the story, Silk Road, was a website which exchaged illegal drugs for bitcoin, that could only be accessed with a Tor browser. So it is not an action movie by any stretch. Lots of focusing on the website, and the fact that it specialized in selling illegal drugs with bitcoin. Also, much was made of Ulbricht’s ideological musings, that he fancied himself to be the world’s saviour. This is all fine. The internet and the computer field is full of people professing to be people’s saviours, to varying degrees of legitimacy, ranging from Bill Gates, to Richard Stallman.

Alexandra Shipp, who plays Julia; and Nick Robinson, who plays Ross Ulbricht.

The medium of film does a better job focusing on people than on websites and the exchange of contraband for bitcoin. There are only so many screenshots, and so many US Post delivery trucks that you can film that would get the point across. Ulbricht seems to come across as a bit of a self-absorbed dick, but you kind of expect that from someone who thinks he can dance between the raindrops of the internet underworld without getting wet. We are never allowed to see deeper into Ulbricht than that; we don’t seem to be allowed to see much insight into his relationship with Julia Vie to feel any tension or for that matter much depth of emotion for either party after their relationship falls apart. But when she told him to leave, you got the feeling he had it coming for some time.

The entire movie seems to be similarly lacking in depth. Officer Rick Bowden, a creation of the movie writers to create a tension between old-school and new, begins to get caught up investigating the massive narcotics trafficking scheme that is Silk Road. He is portrayed as a narcotics officer out of rehab who had been reassigned to cybercrime.

Officer Rick Bowden, played by actor Jason Clarke

While the movie was factual, Bowden was intended to be an amalgamation of two or more officers, who ended up with 6 years in jail for their dealings on Silk Road. Ulricht himself was given a life imprisonment without parole, which bears out in news accounts.

The movie made few attempts to make a case why I should care about Ulricht, the mastermind behind Silk Road – beyond Ulricht’s wide-eyed youthful naivete; few attempts to give us reason to care about officer Rick’s street smarts or to give us any sense that any of the characters had any appreciation of him by the end. That fell flat too. In fact, we are mostly only allowed to see his more buffoonish side as a cop, leaving us to think that his abilities as a Narc were no better than his abilities as an internet sleuth. Also, there was not enough depth given to the Dark Web or Tor browsers or encryption technology or Bitcoin, to give the film any “Geek cred”, so it fell flat there also. It is a wishy-washy film that appears to alienate every demographic equally.

Silk Road is never outright tasteless; and the story is not too hard to follow. You are guaranteed to never be at the edge of your seat for any reason. If you want an afternoon or evening of feeling comfortably numb with a fairly easy-to-follow story, you’ve come to the right place. If you were looking for a thrilling movie that would make you think about the complex issues of cybercrime, or that would challenge Ulbricht’s twisted libertarian beliefs that ultimately put him behind bars … this isn’t it. I would give it two stars out of five.

Casablanca: Just a bunch of cliches strung together!

Casablanca

The 1942 film Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman had it all: shady deals and intrigue in the middle of World War II, a love triangle, and great writing and acting. The title of this blog reflects the fact that this film, among the greatest of all time by many accounts, is the source of cliches and taglines that are so well-known to us, that many of us 79 years later don’t realize that the source of those phrases came from this movie, often delivered by Bogart, playing the part of Rick Blaine, a self-described saloon-owner in Casablanca, in what used to be French Morcco on the north coast of Africa.

Of course, there was Bogart’s trenchocat and fedora, a look so imiated over the decades that it has become a visual cliche, which he wore during certain scenes. There are also the lines of which I was able to identify five:

  • “Play it, Sam!”, a line delivered by Bergman (who plays Ilsa Lund) and later, separately by Bogart, asking a saloon piano player named Sam to play a tune that reminded them of Rick and Ilsa’s old romance. In popular culture, this line appears to have morphed into “Play it again, Sam!”
  • “Here’s looking at you, kid”, an affectionate phrase said several times by Rick to Ilsa during the film. I counted four times, but I may have missed some.
  • “I am shocked, shocked!” when Captain Louis Renault “finds” to his “shock” that gambling was happening at Rick’s saloon, after he himself had gambled there and pocketed his winnings. This has since become the catchphrase of any hypocrite who has benefitted from some kind of shenanigans, and then afterward trying to express revulsion of the very idea of the act when others are doing the same thing.
  • “Round up the usual suspects!”, a line said by officer Renault on the last scene at the airport after he made a deal with Rick.
  • “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”, a line delivered by Rick to officer Renault at the end of the movie.

You had one job

I actually don’t remember where I got these from. But most of them are pretty common on the internet.

The Board of Regents in this college want the college to fail, going by this sign.
Jesus works here.
Do Not Stack. Okay
What is wrong with this picture?
The sign telling drivers to give cyclists space, does not give space to cyclists.
This is the store with MOAR!!!
My theory is that the hanging signs were switched as a sophomoric prank.
Let's Go Out On The Balcony .......Oh Wait
Balconies placed on the apartment building for decoration.
Oh yeah, when I think of London, England, the first image that comes to mind is the Eiffel Tower!
The people travelling on the left side of the staircase are only half-expected.
Don’t everyone relieve themselves at once!

Affirmations by Danielle LaPorte

If staying indoors due to covid depresses you, Canadian author Danielle Laporte challenges us to believe in the power of love and further challenges us to view life as beautiful and full of possibility.

Right now …

  • … there are Tibetan Buddhist monks in a temple in the Himalayas endlessly reciting mantras for the cessation of your suffering and for the flourishing of your happiness.
  • Someone you haven’t met yet is already dreaming of adoring you.
  • Someone is writing a book that you will read in the next two years that will change how you look at life.
  • Nuns in the Alps are in endless vigil, praying for the Holy Spirit to alight the hearts of all of God’s children.
  • A farmer is looking at his organic crops and whispering, “nourish them.”
  • Someone wants to kiss you, to hold you, to make tea for you.
  • Someone is willing to lend you money, wants to know what your favorite food is, and treat you to a movie.
  • Someone in your orbit has something immensely valuable to give you — for free.
  • Something is being invented this year that will change how your generation lives, communicates, heals and passes on.
  • The next great song is being rehearsed.
  • Thousands of people are in yoga classes right now intentionally sending light out from their heart chakras and wrapping it around the earth.
  • Millions of children are assuming that everything is amazing and will always be that way.
  • Someone is in profound pain, and a few months from now, they’ll be thriving like never before. From where they are, they just can’t see it .
  • Someone who is craving to be partnered, to be acknowledged, to arrive, will get precisely what they want — and even more. And because that gift will be so fantastical in it’s reach and sweetness, it will quite magically alter their memory of angsty longing and render it all “So worth the wait.”
  • Someone has recently cracked open their joyous, genuine nature because they did the hard work of hauling years of oppression off of their psyche — this luminous juju is floating in the ether, and is accessible to you.
  • Someone just this second wished for world peace, in earnest.
  • Some civil servant is making sure that you get your mail, and your garbage is picked up, that the trains are running on time, and that you are generally safe.
  • Someone is dedicating their days to protecting your civil liberties and clean drinking water.
  • Someone is regaining their sanity.
  • Someone is coming back from the dead.
  • Someone is genuinely forgiving the seemingly unforgivable.
  • Someone is curing the incurable.
  • You. Me. Some. One. Now.

Found on Facebook

The latest legal tome from the United States Supreme Court

The audacity of the Texas AG to sue other states is grandstanding writ large. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton should also sue his own State of Texas for the same reasons he is suing the four swing states. It is widely believed that the legal action was a ruse to distract Texans from the fact that he himself is being investigated by the FBI.

The latest Supreme Court unsigned court order regarding “stopping the steal” was in  late yesterday. While this was a very short judgement on a case involving seventeen republican states (as plaintiffs) spearheaded by the  Texas attorney-general, it is a veritable War And Peace novel compared with Tuesday’s one-sentence judgement against Mike Kelly’s challenge to the Pennsylvania vote. I think both rulings could have been further shortened to “WTF”. The rulings do come as a gift to ADD sufferers and to the general public.

I have always been on two minds about whether this is worthy of reporting in the major media. Is it the responsibility of reporters and news agencies to highlight every kooky development of these tinfoil-hat wearing nutbars, which accomplished nothing except wasting taxpayer’s money and the court’s time? This is to say nothing about addressing a pandemic where the very states these attorneys general represent see their citizens dying in record numbers.

Sometimes being dismissive is an appropriate reaction, as the Republicans and their propagandists (like Facebook, Twitter and Fox News) have given the rest of the world much to dismiss. They wouldn’t adhere to such potty ideas if they were not rewarded with so much attention from the major media.

The same goes for the protestors. Protestors have a right to protest, even it it’s based on a crazy theory such as the Democrats stealing the election. But the major media don’t have to report it. There are plenty of protests based on nutty ideas, and none of them get reported.

If someone wants to believe that the Democrats are part of a “satanic sex-trafficking ring which practices cannibalism”, I say let them. If news media no longer thinks it’s newsworthy, it will all die down at the grassroots level. After the number of proponents of these conspiracy theories decline, they will  instead just annoy their friends and relatives as before.

While you are quarantining and social distancing …

Sir Isaac Newton, along with some personal notes written in Greek.

Other, greater people have done great things in quarantine way before you were born. I already knew that the late Sir Isaac Newton discovered things like optics, gravity, and the rules for Calculus. But what I didn’t know is that in the two years he did so, he was in his early 20’s, and England suffered an epidemic of The Bubonic Plague, known as The Great Plague, in the years 1665-1666, long before infectious disease were known and understood.

Prior to that he was thought of as an unremarkable undergraduate student, according to Wikipedia. But given two years cooped up where he lived and avoiding the Plague gave him time alone to come up with his brilliant theories on classical mechanics, using calculus to explain it mathematically.

Post-mortem review of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)

I have fairly strong opinions about movies, and watch them only seldom. I call this review “post-mortem” because this review is occuring 3 years after any discussion about it is topical, and most people have stated their opinion about it. I also don’t review movies much, but this one gave me the need to voice some strong opinions about it.

I did not see the first Guardians movie, so my opinions regard the movie upon its own merit. The movie was cringeworthy with very lazy writing. Punchlines that have been pulled from every sitcom I remember seeing; scenes devolving into a group therapy session without any real character development beforehand that would give much of this context outside of the constantly snarky remarks the “Guardians” make about each other throughout the movie. The sarcasm the characters hurl at each other and the “breakthroughs” they have ask the audience to apparently accept this as character depth. It just results in being cringeworthy. I think this would have been a better movie if the Guardians just learned how to shut up and fight crime — or aliens — or whatever it is they are fighting.

Also, maybe it’s because I missed the first part, but I don’t see any other purpose to using seventies’ music throughout the film than to ingratiate the audience to its substandard plot. As a really good fan of seventies music (much of the music they use are actually in my record collection), I found its use here nakedly manipulative, and not really appropriate for an outer space film. No matter how it is justified, hearing Fleetwood Mac in the middle of a space scene is too jarring to be convincing. Or hearing a godlike character named Ego, a planet creator, explain in detail the lyrics to “Brandy You’re a Fine Girl” to his son — lyrics, by the way, that need very little explanation. I think the audience gets it.

What I was looking for, I suppose, was an escape into a movie. Just get absorbed in it. But hearing the music on offer, hearing the constant and often annoying banter, just kept reminding me that this movie is all fake, and don’t get too lost in their world. A movie’s “job”, especially one that is based on fantasy, is to sell me on their world, entice me to accept their world so I too can travel with them in my imagination. Instead, it veers between devolving into a sitcom with tired and overused punch lines, and devolving into a group therapy session, with the most unconvincing breakthroughs in the history of therapeutic breakthroughs. The villains are just “kind of there”, with no character development or even story development on that side either.

There was another thing about this movie that got me as well. Because the writing was so flat and the punchlines so worn, it would likely appeal to a younger audience who may think the punchlines are new to them. Like kids under 15. Certainly, they would be blown away by the high action and visual effects. But there is a problem. There are a lot of sexual jokes in the film where I could see parents having problems with. So, it may not work for them either.

So, anything good about it, apart from the lazy writing, and music that you can find blaring in any shopping mall, flat characters and flat villans, you ask? I think people have considered it successful due to the visual effects, the cameo of Sylvester Stallone, and oh yeah, they think Baby Groot looks cute. Most reviews of this movie were positive, but when I found a negative review, they seemed to find similar issues. There are others who say it’s “not as good as the first movie”, but I wish to avoid comparison to sequels. I am refusing to fall into the trap of desiring to purchase the first DVD in the series to “appreciate” the second one. That spells “ripoff” to me. Movies should stand on their own.

Guardians 3 is scheduled to be released next year. I don’t think I will be going anywhere near it.

Fake Book Titles V: Self-Help for the Online World

Yes, there are so many book titles for people on the internet and social media that it has its own entry, separate from the plain “self-help” category.

Found on laughingsquid.com

Trolling is part of “The Big Book of Online” series, of which this entry has various selections. Trolls are defined as persons or bots who post messages which is designed to inflame and incite to online chat groups, be it Twitter, Facebook, 4Chan, Reddit, or any other online chatroom.

I will give you one bit of advice that will save you from having to read this book: Don’t feed the trolls!

Trolls are looking for an audience and prey on anyone with weaknesses and insecurities. They also crave attention to themselves. Don’t give them that attention. Don’t respond to or even refer to their messages. If your chatroom doesn’t have a way to hide messages that you find disturbing, find another chatroom that does. If others are piling on to give reactions the trolls probably deserve, ignore them also, and find non-toxic online places to have the discussions you were hoping to have.

Found on sadanduseless.com

Because if you do, the troll could just dismiss you and other responders as Haters. The idea is to keep everyone upset and attentive to the troll and their ignorant remarks.

The troll then acts as if he or she is entirely unable to allow him or herself to be confused by facts or reason. This might be an act, or this might actually be the case. Either way, the participants slowly realize their time has been wasted and they move on.

That is, until another time when the same troll posts in the same discussion group about something else they know will upset other people. Other kinds of trolls are featured in the following books:

From somethingawful.com

Honey Bunch is a children’s book written to tell a cautionary tale about a little girl who finds her favourite song online and decides to download it. But really, the book is just another annoying extension of the “children are digital natives” trope that contains the myth that small children understand the complexities of what could be going on, on the other end of the internet connection. No. What they understand is: “I like this song and I know I can click on this link to get it.” There are many reasons to not click on that link, which go beyond “the law”. It is possible that she could be downloading a Trojan, or that she is on a website where each keystroke she makes is being logged in a phishing expedition on the part of the website. A small child doesn’t understand the forces at work that causes such corrupt websites to exist, simply because small children do not understand that there are people in the world that can be evil and hurtful; and that small children provide just that infinite amount of trust in the adult world that online predators crave. And I wasn’t even talking about sexual predators. They are open and accepting of what the online world is, but that is why I would say they should not be exposed to the internet until they are past a certain age.

Small children, contrary to online marketing bullshit, do not understand the online world, primarily because they are too naive to understand the world in its real form either. They are just curious little monkeys who click on stuff to see what happens. And they have more spare time than you to do it with. And yes, along the way, they click on stuff that isn’t a web browser, and now they know how to send an email containing daddy’s browsing history to every email address in daddy’s entire address book through Microsoft Office’s Mail Merge, because of what they saw on a YouTube video they randomly clicked on. The irony is that you were trying for weeks to do this with a business letter you were going to send out to a few dozen recipients as part of your job, and couldn’t figure it out. Great job, Honey Bunch!

The Man Who Walked Away From Facebook appears to be a story about a cowboy with a Facebook account. It is another cautionary tale about not letting online distractions keep your attention away from your horse. I think.

 

 

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Fake Book Titles IV: Everyday Dramas

Apparently, this website has turned making fake book covers into something of a cottage industry. This is a bit of a trend, following the fake book titles meme. I think the art is in the ingenuity of the ‘shop job. Changing letters behind the cracks and dog-ears in the book cover is an art form I have respect for.

The Connor Brothers have offered a fake title that is not really that far removed from the original title.

It is basically the kind of modern translation you kind of wished you found in the Coles’ “Everyday English” Shakespeare series. That would have had me even more hooked on literature back in university.

There are certain scenes in this play (the real one, by William Shakespeare) where profanity would have worked, such as when characters about to marry are dancing with each other while hiding their identities by wearing masks. While dancing they begin to talk smack about other people, but actually have no idea they are talking smack about each other, and hearing about themselves in the third person, unknowingly spoken to them directly. Comedy gold.

You’ve Won a Free Timeshare Vacation, for years, has been the quintessential telemarketing con. Darryl Dawkins, former NBA star, dabbled in pulp fiction after his carrer as a basketball icon, offering this book, published by Fuxley Books.

This is the drama of a couple in Ajax receiving a phonecall from a telemarketer about winning a raffle to win their own timeshare in The Bahamas. It sounded absolutely unbelievable.

This novel is the prequel to the next novel, Timeshare Exit, where the same protagonists get another telemarketer phonecall offering to get out of their timeshare for a “small upfront fee” of $11,000.

Women have their way of knowing how she measures up in her marriage, such as seeing how she competes with a game on TV. From the point of view of the husband, it’s lousy timing. From the wife’s point of view, it is perfect timing.

Since the publication of this book, she might have to compete with The Playboy Channel, or something similar. Her only advantage in that case, is to remind her husband that he can’t marry the Playboy Channel.

The Most Glorious Bowel Movement, is a pulp fiction page turner if there ever was one. Goliath Dumper’s artistic challenge here is to get his character to describe the bowel movement in a way that would hold the reader’s attention for 198 pages. We get the story from the wife’s point of view. What she was doing before, during and after; what it felt like before and after in intricate detail that illustrates the slow start, the buildup and the climax.

Spanky McFarland has embarked on writing a Fanfiction novel based on Dumper’s obvious million-selling pulp classic. These are the in fact the four words you don’t want to hear from an attractive woman if you were ever “in the mood” at the time.

I didn’t want this post to deteriorate into “potty humor” but I had these two in stock, and thought they should go together.

Now, where were we …? Oh yeah, this was supposed to be a post of “everyday dramas” in fake book titles.

Oh, for Fuck’s Sake, What Have You Done Now? could also have been called “Smooth Moves” but illustrate the hell of children dealing with a collapsing treehouse.

You have to read the book to know why the tree was made to collapse. Shoddy workmanship? Too many people sitting on one side? Using too much hay on the roof and walls? Why is the little girl licking her hand as she is crawling away from the disaster? What was the guy in the background doing that caused him to helplessly fall out and faceplant himself on the ground? Will he ever get up?

Handicapped Parking Posse is the story about a librarian named Annie who really takes handicapped parking enforcement to heart.

If an able-bodied patron so much as thought of parking in the handicapped parking spot, then a pissed-off librarian and her Second Amendment rights would be there to greet them with a loaded .22 calibre rifle. All the patron would have to do is look down where he is standing, at the blood stains on the pavement from previous patrons who thought she was neither serious, nor a good shooter. But Annie is not a bloodthirsty killer. She doesn’t shoot to kill. She just shoots to disable. Once shot, you were allowed to take the disabled parking spot and drag your bloodied body into the library and make yourself comfortable. Sit on one of their bloodstained chairs; borrow a bloodstained book; or just ask Annie to phone you an ambulance.

Fake Book Titles III: Self-Help Suggestions

Boredpanda.com discusses a bunch of actual fake covers you can use to cover your boring copy of Plato’s Republic or Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Many of these titles are in the self-help genre, and are sure to attract attention.

Passengers all moved away from this person when they saw the cover.

For example, why publically show your preference for Tess of the D’ubervilles, or War and Peace, when you can show off your interest in Hiding Your Erection from God? Covers like these have been shown to give you much more room on that rush hour subway ride, according to studies.

Boredpanda.com also had many titles below, that are too long, and don’t appear to satirize any existing covers. Some examples are below:

The self-help genre is a deep well, with titles that speak deeply about human angst and ennui. Harrowing tales! Horror! Suspicion! And who can resist a book describing in scientific detail a video about a puppy with the hiccups (the video in this link has 18 million views, but this one is closer to 7 minutes)?

Boris wants to mess with your coiff’. BTW, his hair is not this nice in real life.

And in case you need to know How to be Incompetent from the experts, here is a easy to read book with a very familiar British Prime Minister on the cover for those needing a mentor by which they can model their incompetent behaviour.

You get to learn the meaning of big words like anosognosia. While that word has medical connotations, the generally incompetent can interpret it in the sense of “not knowing that you don’t know”. That is, you are actually incompetent, yet not aware that you are incompetent. This is not to be confused with denial. Oh no, my dear reader! This is just incompetence raised to a new dimension: you are too incompetent to know that you are incompetent. It would be as if Boris Johnson styled his own hair, and was so impressed with the results that he opened a salon, charging top dollar.

Of course, we don’t want to give Donald Trump short shrift here, so we have two books which are the most likely titles to not have been ghostwritten by someone else with his name on the cover. And because they are likely to have been written by Trump, both books are 50 pages, tops! Free copies will distributed in the Trump hotel rooms alongside the Gideons’ Bible.

These are parodies of covers of classic titles put out by Penguin Books. In a sudden fit of “FTFY“, I see its category is “Mystery and Crime”. But really, I’ve Seen the Future: I Can’t Afford It should be “self-help”, as we all like to know how to cope.

But also another possibility is that it is part of a futuristic dystopia, which makes it, maybe science fiction or fantasy. But I do prefer to think of this as self-help. What are the choices we have as a species going into a future we can’t afford? The scary part is that it may involve sharing resources, rent, food and generally getting along together. It potentially could be a subversive book in today’s neocon climate.

The Weirdo Always Sits Next To Me is a classic problem plaguing certain passengers using public transit. Now, I know about all of the talk that we can all be a little, shall we say, “different”, and some of us dye our hair strange colors, wear strange clothes, makeup and tattoos. Maybe some of us have strange piercings or whatnot. But that is a normal weird. All that is is “different”, really.

What I have in mind is more of the kind of weirdo that comes on the bus, pays his fare, and on his head is a paper hat which has printed on it what he feels to be “The Seven Commandments“. He wears a shirt made of newspaper whose characters are in Hebrew, and clutches in both hands inkjet-printed and hand-folded pamphlets describing the end of the world. And he thinks to himself, ‘you seem like a nice person to sit next to’, and he does, uninvited. His smell is a mixture of schnapps and body odour, and you can’t figure out if there is something crawling under his beard. You begin to itch. You try to stare out the window. It will be a long bus ride. And it happens the next day and the next.

And this makes the book the basis for self-help. You begin to wonder what the hell is it about you that attracts weirdos on the bus? What signals do you give off that make you a choice for weirdos to sit next to? Is the character in this anecdote the only one that attracts weirdos? What scientific studies discussing what proportion of the population attract weirdos on public transit? Are certain personality types more likely to attract weirdos on the bus than others? Should you seek help? Is there a remedy? Are weirdos contagious? So many questions.

The last title in this article is what we all feel. Let’s face it. Youth, with all of its brash confidence, bravado, and disrespect for authority, is wasted on the young, since it lacks worldly wisdom. A title such as this one really sums up what any self-help book ever written has ever been about. And that is, when you combine your wisdom with confidence, you become a tour de force. But the perennial problem has nearly always been that we usually have way more of one than the other. It is one of the paradoxes of a life lived: You can only gain wisdom by making mistakes and learning from them — that is, you gain wisdom by having previously failed at something. But failing at something saps confidence and your motivation decreases. To regain our confidence and motivation is a purely psychological effort, and a difficult one for us as we get older. The humbling feeling we get by making mistakes should not be mistaken for a “reason” to lose confidence in ourselves, since no reason exists or can exist. There is only learning, and with learning there can only be future success, but that means we need to keep trying. This particular book doesn’t exist, but if it did, I just saved you the trouble of having to buy it. You’re welcome.

Fake Book Titles II: Personal Tragedies

By now you may have read the first installment of Fake Book Titles, and the rationale for this simple concept. Show fake book title, write highly plausible nonsense about it.

Toaster Oven Inferno is the kind of drama that should be written into a book. It begins with optimism, a promise of convenience, all ruined by a single burrito. And out of the flames runs a housewife wearing tattered garments as if she had barely escaped a grizzly bear attack, barely surviving the inferno, not knowing where the kids are, and wondering what his husband would say when he came home from work.

No information on the originator of this graphic.

Mummy’s Breaking Point is not a property of mothers, but of parents generally. Here a bunch of small kids decide to form an indie marching band. The book proves that insanity is hereditary: you get it from your children.

It was reported that they had to take mummy away that week, leaving Dad to do the housework and tend to 7 little terrors who appear to have boundless energy and below average music skills.

Wait for the sequel, Daddy’s Breaking Point, starring Daddy as a new mental hospital inmate, sharing a room with co-star Mommy. Supporting cast include the Children’s Aid Society.

This is Sam. Sam he is. The title of this book should be considered to be a natural reaction to being served green eggs and ham.

Either of You Boys Want a Coke? I don’t recognize the series this book originates from; it isn’t Hardy Boys, but it is kind of like Hardy Boys in that there are two teen-age dudes that are depicted on the cover.

Apparently, they don’t mind being tied up in the basement and only feel thirsty.

This next tome has a cover depicting a space mission, but not any actual one, since the space capsule appears to contain only one astronaut.

So, some kid who always dreamed of space travel steals the keys to a rocketship, and after entering space and the third stage of the rocket disappears into zero gravity, he now contemplates the consequences of his actions. What now? His boy scout magnetic compass is no good to him anymore as he sees the beach ball of Earth shrink away from him to the size of a quarter. He doesn’t know how to control the oxygen or navigate the ship, and it is getting harder to breathe. It dawns on him that space travel is more complicated than he remembered seeing it on TV. He never thought he would actually look forward to being grounded when he gets back home.

Fake Book Titles: Classic Rock Legends

The old books your parents or grandparents kept have been repurposed, with humourous effect. About a year ago, I had been tracking these on Pinterest, but I understand some fake titles have been mentioned on The Chive as far back as 2016. On a recent search, it appears as though the titles have proliferated and have become viral in their own way.

There are so many out there, that they are no longer confined to the now-commonplace parodies of pulp fiction covers. These have now expanded to nearly every kind of book.

I would like to say in advance that the stories relating the cover to something “real” in the lives of the subjects of the titles are totally made up. Highly plausible bullshit, if you will.

Stories about Kenny Loggins

Stories About Kenny Loggins Obviously this artist’s rendition was drawn long before Kenny’s foray into blockbuster movie-themed 80’s rock. He was, at one time, more of a back-to-the-land folkie type, who had a following with songs like Danny’s Song. Surely, that is what this book will cover.

You can see him here, backstage at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, talking to a young fan in attendance.

The History of Fleetwood Mac I haven’t been a huge follower of this band, but it has an incredibly long history, going back to about 1967, more than half a century ago. But back in those days, Fleetwood Mac were also caught up in the folk movement, and played with mostly acoustic instruments.

They later evolved into blues rock by the ’70s, and stayed that way for a while, and undergoing many personnel changes until their classic lineup in 1975, after which albums like Fleetwood Mac and Rumors were released. It is made clear that by then, they had long since done away with the mandolin, cello, flute and harpsichord as shown in this book cover.

Ayn Rand Institute on the Dole

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum, or Ayn Rand, as you may or may not know, is an atheist responsible for extolling her invented philosophy called “objectivism”, as detailed in her doorstopper work of fiction called Atlas Shrugged. Her nonfiction works included titles such as “The Virtue of Selfishness” and “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal”. While objectivism never worked as a serious branch of philosophy, her philosophy of “what’s good for ‘me’ is good for mankind” resonated with those invested in capitalism. In recent decades many in American government saw it as a way of promoting themselves to say that they had read Ayn Rand. By far the most notable American politician who claims to have read any of her works is American congressman Paul Ryan, who claims it formed the basis of his entire political career, according to a speech he made to the Atlas Institute in 2005, the 100th anniversary of Ayn’s birth. Senator Rand Paul, contrary to rumors, wasn’t named after Ayn’s pen surname (his full name is actually Randal Paul, with one “l”), but is also another big fan of the late Ms. Rand since his teen years. Both elected officials extoll “free markets” and decry “socialism” in all of its forms, in the spirit of Ayn Rand. Another prominent supporter of Ayn Rand was Alan Greenspan, who chaired the Federal reserve between 1987 and 2006. None of these people have any significant background in philosophy.

Ayn was in the twilight years of her life ironically making use of medicare and social security after suffering from medical problems related to her smoking habit. She died in 1982 at age 77.

A week ago, Reuters reported that the Ayn Rand Institute was among those who applied for the American government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which under the current pandemic, gives it access to up to 1 million dollars of government money. It is indeed ironic that an institute dedicated to “ending the welfare state” would find it within their philosophy to actually embrace the welfare state as they do here. Oh, and they embrace this wholeheartedly, making it a “matter of moral principle”. The argument is roughly: because we pay taxes, we therefore must all apply for any handouts we can get our hands on as a form of restitution for the theft of taxation. On the other hand, those who support the welfare state have no right to claim such access to handouts, since they are in support of theft (taxation), and therefore lack any moral justification to be so compensated. This means that, according to the website, the fault lies in the contradictions of the welfare state, and not in the Ayn Rand institute, who merely claim what was taken from them.

It is very convenient that members of the Ayn Rand Institute do not feel the need for living up to their own convictions. The institute is not out to make a profit; indeed it is a right-wing think tank that receives private donations, and as such it is registered in Irvine, California as a nonprofit organization (under tax code 501(c)(3)), thus avoiding taxation altogether. It has no real moral claim to restitution of any such government thievery, since nothing was ever taken from them. Nope. They’re just sponging off the government.

My first look at the Caledon Trail: a gallery

Mile zero ot the Caledon Trail is a good ways away from where I live, and not all of it is highway driving, since it is far away from the 401, the 403, the 407, and any of the “400 series” expressways. Most of the drive was through Winston Churchhill Boulevard, which gradually narrows from 6 lanes to 2 lanes as you approach Terra Cotta, where the Mile Zero marker is located. You then need to enter a dirt road with an initial sharp incline called Brick Lane and travel it to the end to see the trail.

The distance from home to the trail is further away (41 km) than the trail itself, so I drove. Since I left around 11 AM or so, it was already getting hot, and so I didn’t carry the bike in the van. Today was about seeing how easy or difficult it was to get to the Mile Zero marker, and then looking around. There were no issues, except right around Mile Zero, King St. breaks up Winston Churchhill into two sections, and you had to find the northern section to get to Brick Lane. Not that hard with a map, which I had.

The small bit of looking around I did was extremely helpful in planning my ride, when I decide to embark. It will likely be useful to divide the route into 3 sections of about 10 km each, which makes a ballpark cycling distance twice that, due to the return journey. The trail goes across main streets and towns, so it is possible to stop where I last turned back the previous day and do a new journey for another 10 or so kilometers.

More of my thoughts are below. To see the illustrations in “gallery mode”, click on a graphic, and it will behave as a slideshow. However, you lose the captions.

Crappy Album Covers #335: Don’t let go the coattails

Cody Matherson "Can I Borrow a Feelin'?"Anyone who has read this blog from as far back as 10 years ago may have recalled a fella named Cody Matherson, who made an album called “Can I Borrow a Feelin’?” If you did see it, I guess it was hard to unsee. And my apologies for re-traumatizing you with this illustration. But I am bringing this up for a reason, since I have noticed that a few years later, as Cody had gotten older, his appearance naturally changed and now he has, uh, matured both musically and physically, with his more recent offering. All the while, his fame appears to have spread far and wide.

Cody MathersonI discovered this album while picking through some fresh Crappy Album Covers for future blogs. And look! A sequel! “Can I Borrow Another Feelin’?” rides on the tidal wave of success of his previous album, and takes things “that one step too far”. Also, Cody doesn’t seem to look that much worse for wear, don’t you think?

Stories abound about Cody’s past, on the internet. But many of them are well-written, but obviously tall tales, such as his place of birth in Pflugerville, Texas in 1958, followed  by a number of other plausible details, then saying that he was written up in Rolling Stone magazine as a country-rock legend with musical prowess comparable to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elvis and Barry Manilow. That, and famous quotes purportedly about Cody from Bob Dylan. This is all nice, but there is not much proof of his actual music existing. The only evidence of Cody’s musicianship that appear to be left to 21st century civilization are these two album covers, which turn up all over the place. The Joyce album , referred to by some as the Mona Lisa of crappy album covers, is real. I have heard a snippet of her brand of gospel music. I have also heard music from many other CAC makers, some good, some not so much. But as Donald Rumsfeld liked to say about their ability to turn up evidence of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear arms cache, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Just because we can’t find any music from Cody Matherson, doesn’t mean that it’s not out there. We can say that for the Rolling Stone article, too.

KirkVanHouten Can I Borrow a FeelingThis franchise has apparently made it into the canon of popular culture. So much so, that a Simpson’s episode was devoted to a situation where Homer’s friend, Kirk Van Houten, was trying to get his former wife back by devoting a recording of songs like these and launching his career. There was merchandise such as cassette recordings you could have bought from the Simpson’s website for a while. Now, these are trading on websites such as E-Bay. You can now even get Kirk Van Houten T-shirts and coffee mugs, and patches for your jean jacket.

the-decline-can-i-borrow-a-feelingAs recently as 2014, Australian skate punk group The Decline announced a tour in promotion of an EP they recorded entitled “Can I Borrow a Feeling?”, obviously riding on the coattails of Cody Matheson and Kirk Van Houten, neither of whom were available for comment.